Happy Centennial of a Big Global Streetcar Event

Tram procession on Riversdale Road, Camberwell, Melbourne, November 10, 1991. Courtesy Australian Rail Maps Group on Facebook.

Today is the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Melbourne & Metropolitan Tramways Board (M&MTB), whose history is wonderfully summarized in the quoted sections below, which were originally posted on Facebook by the group Australian Rail Maps, which also provided the historic photo from 1991 above.

The M&MTB built both of Muni’s W-class trams: W2 496 in 1929, and SW6 916 in 1946. (Muni also has W2 586, built in 1930, complete and in storage.) W-class trams are generally considered among the best ever built anywhere: simple, reliable, and durable. There were eight evolutionary classes of these vehicles, built between 1923 and 1956. In the photo above, W Class 380 and W1 Class 431 bring up the rear of this procession of older trams. Originally M&MTB painted its trams in a chocolate brown, but switched to the iconic green livery in the late 1920s. W-class trams still hold down service on the 35-City Circle line, as famous to Melbourne as cable cars are to San Francisco. These trams are in the process of being upgraded with some modern features while retaining their historic fabric into the W8 class, for decades more service. We have shared some of the details of these upgrades with Muni, for possible incorporation into its Melbourne trams.

You can find a complete all-time roster of Melbourne trams here.

Melbourne today continues to operate the largest electric streetcar network in the world, thanks to the enduring commitment started by M&MTB. Happy Centennial to our friends Down Under. And thanks to Adolfo Echeverry for the great photo immediately below of Muni’s 496 (left) and 916 at the Ferry Building.

Founded on November 1 1919, the Melbourne and Metropolitan Tramways Board was a State Government instrumentality charged with integrating and operating Melbourne’s then fragmented tramways. The city and suburbs possessed an impressive but disjoint collection of tramways that had evolved over decades. The MMTB inherited the cable tram network built between 1885 and 1919 by the Melbourne Tramway & Omnibus Company (MTOC), and the Northcote Municipality Cable Tramway line. Comprising numerous lines centred on downtown Melbourne, cable trams ran in all directions into the inner suburbs and was world’s largest ever cable tramway network.
The MMTB also inherited a number of municipal-owned electric tramway networks that served surrounding municipalities. Many lines connected end-on with cable trams into the centre of Melbourne. These networks included those of the Prahran & Malvern Tramways Trust (PMTT), the Hawthorn Tramways Trust (HTT), the Melbourne, Brunswick and Coburg Tramways Trust (MBCTT), the Fitzroy, Northcote and Preston Tramways Trust (FNPTT), and the then under construction Footscray Tramways Trust (FTT). It also took over the operations of the privately owned North Melbourne Electric Tramway & Lighting Company and Melbourne’s last remaining horse tram route from Royal Parade to Melbourne Zoo in Royal Park.
The MMTB set about unifying and standardising the network. Over the decades it replaced cable trams with electric trams. The last cable tram route, along Bourke Street, closed in 1940. It embarked on a massive electric tramcar modernisation and building program that gave the world the famous W class tram and enabled the older pre-MMTB trams to be withdrawn.
Ultimately, it’s because of the MMTB that Melbourne was able to stand strong against the worldwide destruction of tram networks throughout the 1950s and 1960s, and has not only retained but extended its network so that it is now the world’s largest electric tram network. Trams are now the single most iconic and defining feature of the city.
Ultimately the MMTB was dissolved on July 1 1983 when it was replaced by the Metropolitan Transit Authority that merged tram, bus and suburban train services in Melbourne. Subsequent changes have led to operation of Melbourne’s trams nowadays being franchised to Keolis Downer and run under the banner of Yarra Trams.

–From Australian Rail Maps Group on Facebook, November 1, 2019
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Double Dose of Down Under This Weekend

UPDATE, Saturday July 21, 11:00 a.m. — Muni tests cars for a good reason before they enter service. The 916 developed a hot wheel bearing this morning and has safely returned to Cameron Beach Yard, where it will be fixed by the maintenance team.

The operating crew said the car ran like a dream from a propulsion and braking standpoint, and they’re excited about taking it out again soon, though it will almost certainly not be out Sunday, July 22.

We’ll let you know when the 916 will be out again. Meanwhile, enjoy Melbourne 496 this weekend.

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It’s shaping up as a special weekend on The Embarcadero July 21 and 22, as Melbourne trams built 18 years apart wish San Franciscans and visitors a double “G’Day”.

As our Members and friends know, Market Street Railway has been strongly advocating that Muni operate Melbourne W2 class tram 496 (built 1928) regularly on the E-line (it’s on the left in the photo above and in action on King Street, below).

Overcoming reluctance from some quarters inside Muni, the 496 has now been successfully operating on the E-line every day for some time, delighting passengers. It is scheduled to be on its regular runs this weekend, and you can ride it along the waterfront, AND on its end-of-day trip home to its “sleeping quarters”, Cameron Beach Yard (where the photo above was taken July 10) you can ride it out Market Street on the F-line and then down Church Street on the J-line to Balboa Park, for just the regular Muni fare, because all historic streetcars are in service until the reach the car barn.

This “pull-in” run for Car 496 should pass our San Francisco Railway Museum (Steuart Street stop) outbound on the F-line around 5:35 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, if it’s on schedule. You can check its whereabouts anytime via NextMuni, through this link.

But wait, there’s more.

[NOTE: See update above; this has changed.] Come down to The Embarcadero Saturday or Sunday and you’ll also see (but won’t yet be able to ride) 496’s baby brother, SW6 Class 916, built in 1946 (on the right in the top photo, and below). It has just completed protracted, on-and-off renovations and adaptation to San Francisco standards after being gifted to San Francisco in 2009, with Market Street Railway’s assistance. The gift came from the Victoria State Government in Australia, which owns the Melbourne trams. Both days, the 916 will leave Cameron Beach Yard around 6 a.m., run up and down The Embarcadero and perhaps down the T-line as far as Muni Metro East (at 25th Street), until around 5 p.m., when it will head home to Cameron Beach. The crew will checking systems and reliability before carrying its first paying passengers in San Francisco, which should happen in just a matter of weeks now.

 

We’ll let you know when the 916 is ready to launch into regular service, but for now, check out the waterfront this weekend for an extra taste of Melbourne!

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